Labour link irks scam victims

"We are not trying to politicise anything, Husaini is also one of the victims and he has been elected as chairman," Mr Trevidi said. "What we need is a strong voice in the Government and in Parliament and I think he will give us the link we need to the ministers and MPs."

The New Zealand Herald
January 30, 2008

Labour link irks scam victims
Lincoln Tan

The appointment of a Labour Party ethnic adviser as chairman of Franchise Watch, and the group's meeting with a lawyer touted as a possible Labour candidate at this year's election, is cracking up the united front of victims in the Keith Lapham scam.

Ethnic Affairs Minister Chris Carter's advice that collective legal action was the best way forward may be falling on deaf ears, as some defrauded ironing franchisees seek out their individual lawyers because they felt the group was getting too political.
The new chairman for Franchise Watch, Husaini Ambawala, is the ethnic adviser to Auckland-based Labour MPs, and Auckland Chinese lawyer Raymond Huo is tipped to be Labour's second Chinese candidate in the coming general election.

But spokesperson Ketan Trevidi said the appointment of Mr Ambawala as chairman would do franchisees a lot of good because of his connections with ministers and Parliament.

"We are not trying to politicise anything, Husaini is also one of the victims and he has been elected as chairman," Mr Trevidi said. "What we need is a strong voice in the Government and in Parliament and I think he will give us the link we need to the ministers and MPs."

In 2006, Mr Ambawala also made the news for being an executive board member of the Universal Peace Federation, a group linked to the Rev Sun Myung Moon and his Unification Church, a movement also known as the Moonies.

Some franchisees, however, were worried that the appointment of Mr Ambawala and possibly Mr Huo could stop victims from getting help of non-Labour MPs. "What we need is support from all MPs, from all parties," said Ulka Joshi, a victim. "With Franchise Watch being so close to Labour, I really hope the others won't stop giving us the help we need."

The 200 defrauded Green Acres franchisees are mainly Chinese and Indian immigrants who paid between $21,000 and $25,000 to former Green Acres master franchisee Keith Lapham for non-existent ironing businesses. Many borrowed money to buy the franchises and now have no income to repay the loans.

Several victims formed Franchise Watch to represent the collective interest of those defrauded. But some say they no longer want to be represented by the group.

Victim Loui Zhang said he wanted to have his own lawyer because he felt the group was aligning itself too much with Labour. Phoebe Yang said she now felt uncomfortable because she had been getting help from National MP Pansy Wong.

Giri Kattel, who was also in the process of seeking his own legal representation, said he was "saddened" by news of the cracks in the group.


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